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Local woman perseveres in Cairo

Charity work on hold after church attacks

The sound of Muslims praying in a nearby mosque echoes into Kate McDaniel's apartment building in downtown Cairo, a sound she didn't hear in her south Winnipeg home. In her beloved home city, McDaniel is known as a 22-year-old political science student who loves perogies and pistachio ice cream. In Egypt, McDaniel is identified as a Christian.

"They ask you your religion before they ask you your name," said McDaniel, who for the past three months has been teaching English as part of her work with an organization called Reach Out Development. "They love their religion, it is their main identity."

Winnipegger Kate McDaniel is in Cairo teaching English among the unrest.


Winnipegger Kate McDaniel is in Cairo teaching English among the unrest.

Although McDaniel's religion is printed on her passport, the government does not permit Christians to evangelize in Egypt.

"It is my role as a Christian for people to give others the opportunity to at least hear what I have to say if they want," said the University of Manitoba student.

This week, McDaniel hasn't been doing much charity work after nearly 40 churches were looted and torched, while 23 others have been heavily damaged since Wednesday, when chaos erupted after Egypt's military-backed interim administration moved in to clear two camps packed with protesters calling for the reinstatement of Mohammed Morsi, the Islamist former president ousted from office on July 3. It turned bloody on Wednesday, when the military raided two protest camps of Morsi's supporters in Cairo, killing hundreds of people.

The streets of Cairo have been shut down this week with a 7 p.m. curfew.

"It's more so political than an attack on Christianity. Society is very accepting of Christians," she said. "They have more respect for me if I say that I'm a practising Christian than they would if I hadn't said anything."

Only 10 per cent of the Egyptian population is Christian.

After the attacks, McDaniel's church service was cancelled last week. She's hoping the service will start up again on Friday. "We haven't had Bible study because my leader left to go home to the Philippines," said McDaniel. "She thought it was too dangerous to stay in Cairo."

When Maro Mark heard the attacks outside her work last week, she ran to the balcony of the city building.

"I thought 'Why us? Why are they threatening us like this?" said the 29-year-old Coptic Christian.

Mark works as a stockbroker at one of the businesses in the south of Cairo. Part of the building was destroyed.

"The only thing you're thinking is to get away from the shooting because they shoot at random," she said. "You have to save yourself."

Outside the building, attackers were shouting and using bombs and guns as weapons. They also shot at police officers and members of the army.

Ten people were killed in the attack.

"You saw death with your own eyes," she said. "And you think to yourself, 'Maybe I'll live.' "

Mark said she doesn't think the attacks were against Christians, but more of a political statement showing authority.

"They want to rule, even if they hate us," she said. "There's no limit to violence, it's impossible to control."

Mar Girgis, the largest church in the governorate, was attacked a few days ago. Mena Kapo, a 23-year-old Coptic Christian, remembers getting up early to attend the church's service a few blocks away from his childhood home.

"We would have a party at church and sing songs and pray," he said. "It's a good way to lead people to church."

In February, Kapo moved to Al Fitas, Kuwait, for safety reasons. He heard about the attacks on the Internet while at work. But despite protests and sudden attacks on the Christian community, Kapo has high hopes for his country.

"If God is with us then why should we (Egyptians) be scared?" he said.


-- with files from The Associated Press


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 20, 2013 A6

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